Until a few years ago, scientists believed our Solar System contained nine planets. The discovery of a planet-like object called Eris in 2005 changed all that, leading to the creation of a new class of objects called dwarf planets. Now we have eight planets and an ever-growing family of dwarf planets. There are five official dwarf planets, and a large group of other objects that meet the criteria to be dwarf planets but have not yet been designated as such. One of these is 50000 Quaoar, also known as TNO Quaoar (TNO is short for Trans Neptunian Object). Learn more:
– Quaoar (pronounced “Kwawar”) was discovered on June 4, 2002, by a team consisting of Mike Brown from the California Institute of Technology and Chad Trujillo from the Gemini Observatory.
– Quaoar is located in the region of space beyond the planet Neptune, known as the scattered disc. The dwarf planet is currently about 43 Astronomical Units from the Sun. One AU is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun — about 92,957,000 miles!
– It takes Quaoar approximately 286 years to orbit the sun, and about 18 hours to rotate once on its axis.
– Astronomers believe Quaoar is about 727 miles in diameter, making it about one fifteenth the diameter of Earth, one quarter the diameter of the Moon, and a third the size of Pluto.
– The surface of Quaoar is believed to be rich in minerals, and coated in crystalline ice.
– Quaoar is named after the creator god among the Tongva people, who are native to the area that is now Los Angeles, where the dwarf planet was discovered. The name was chosen in keeping with the tradition of naming planets after mythological deities.
– Quaoar has one moon, Weywot, named for the Tongva sky god, son of Quaoar.
– The average temperature on Quaoar is a frosty -382 F!
– Quaoar’s small size means that it has only a very thin atmosphere.
– Quaoar can only be seen through very high-powered telescopes.